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Seeking custody when you have a history of alcohol abuse

If you're a parent going through a divorce who has struggled with alcohol, you may fear that your history will impact your custody and visitation rights. It's wise to be concerned -- particularly if your spouse wants to limit your access to your kids and the matter will need to be decided by a judge.

Every judge is different, of course. However, it's important to look at what kind of factors they typically consider when deciding a custody case that involves a parent with alcohol abuse issues.

It's crucial to admit that you have a problem with alcohol (assuming that you do). Denying that you have a problem -- particularly if your spouse has evidence to the contrary -- isn't going to help you. Acknowledging the problem is a necessary first step in any recovery program.

What if you've acknowledged the problem, stopped drinking, joined a 12-step program and maybe even done a stint in rehab? All of that is great -- for you and your children. However, judges will want to see a commitment to a sober lifestyle.

That means staying sober through the ups and downs of life. Certainly divorce, a custody battle and taking on single parenting (even if it's only for one day a week) can test anyone's commitment to sobriety. However, if you make it through these challenges and remain sober, you're likely to have a good chance of gaining increased custody rights later. That's why it's essential to be patient and accept the fact that you may not get equal custody of your children in your first months of sobriety.

Every case is different, of course. If your drinking contributed to domestic violence or any actions that endangered your children's safety and well-being (such as getting a DUI while they were in the car), the road to gaining custody and perhaps even unsupervised visitation will likely be longer. However, in most cases, if you can show a long-term commitment to sobriety, you'll have an easier time of getting a judge to rule in your favor. Your Tennessee family law attorney can work to help you seek a greater role in your children's lives.

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